High-scoring students applying to selective colleges drive up applications
Higher Ed Dive
December 12, 2022
Students send in more college applications today than they did eight years ago, according to a Common Application analysis released Monday. And the students driving up the average are overwhelmingly applying to selective private institutions.
Those facts aren’t surprising on their face. Admissions officers have long discussed a trend of students applying to more colleges, fueled in part by the growth of the Common App, which now counts more than 1,000 member colleges and handled submissions from over 1.2 million unique applicants in 2021-22.
But the new analysis adds important details about how high-volume application behavior is changing, which students are sending in a large number of applications, and which colleges are seeing their application totals rise.
These are important factors, because more applications per student can cut multiple ways for colleges. It can add to downward price pressures if families cross-shop different financial aid offers, and it can make it harder to predict how many applicants will show up in the fall after they’re admitted.
But higher ed leaders generally want more students to apply to their colleges. Common App argues more applications per student give institutions exposure to a greater pool so they can better shape their entering classes. It touts recent research finding a 12% increase in applications for colleges that joined its platform.
Growth among Common App members and a trend toward eliminating application fees mean applications per student could continue to go up in the future.
“At least on the Common App platform, it is likely that we will see more continuing growth in applications per applicant in the coming seasons,” Common App’s analysis said.
Below are some key findings from the Common App’s analysis, plus important details about them.